The Capabilities of Slovenian
Slovenia's accession to the EU understandably
gave rise to questions regarding the preparedness of Slovenian
winemakers for doing business in Europe. The biggest change
will undeniably be the marketing of wine: the Slovenian consumer
can now purchase wines from all continents. This is a new situation
with which we have little experience. The proverbial curiosity
of wine aficionados is a fact in Slovenia, as it is elsewhere,
and imported wines will certainly grab a share of the wine market.
Moreover, there has so far been little incentive for exports,
as we have managed to sell most of our production on the Slovenian
Traditionally, wine has been an integral
part of the food culture and get-togethers for many Slovenes.
Per capita, wine consumption is also quite significant at 40
litres per person per year, which is favourable for domestic
sales. Slovenes also show national affiliation through the veneration
of our wines, with which we like to identify at local and national
levels. There is also a great desire among wine drinkers to
learn more about wines; the culture of drinking is gaining in
importance and moderate wine consumption with food is forcing
out the binge drinking that used to be the norm. Winemakers
know that we will have to pay much greater attention to the
domestic buyer than before. We have excellent natural conditions
that make it possible to produce a wide variety of wines of
various characters from a total of 34 recommended and permitted
grape varieties. These include autochthonous varieties that
produce unique wines which are made nowhere else in the world
and which are highly respected in Slovenia. These wines are
successful attention-grabbers, for they are a true discovery
for many wine connoisseurs from other countries.
Most of our vineyards are planted on
steep hillsides where conditions are harsh but the wine is better.
Certain wine cellars are state-of-the-art and Slovenia has enough
oenological knowledge to keep up with global developments in
grape and wine production. Terroir wines have also been gaining
ground, making it easier to win over European wine connoisseurs,
while no major estate has opted for machine grape picking, which
is a good sign.
Europe is a challenge for us. We have
excellent natural resources for the production of high-quality
wines as well as the people who want to do it and have the know-how.
Yet I am convinced that we have failed to make our government
more aware of the new winemaking conditions in Europe. The European
market is under heavy pressure through globalisation from New
World countries that want to have a market share. The economically
strongest wine producing countries (France, Germany…) sensed
the economic threat to their wines and adopted in 2000 a 20-year
plan for the restructuring of their viticulture and winemaking
that has been implemented thoroughly. Slovene winemaking is
economically much more vulnerable than in France or Germany.
The government must not overlook that fact and should take appropriate
measures to preserve and strengthen winemaking in the new global
Slovenian wines are now well known in
Europe; we have only been able to promote them on European and
world markets since we created an independent State for our
nation. But our legislation is not sufficiently supportive of
the efforts of progressive winemakers to bring about a renaissance
of collective wine brands based on new and contemporary foundations.
With strict criteria for grape and wine production with regard
to wine districts, modelled on France's AOC, we should develop
wines of a more balanced quality and recognisable character.
Organising small winemakers that way would surely be a successful
medicine for the ails of the fragmented Slovenian winemaking-industry.
(Content abstracted from "Slovenija.svet"
published by Slovenska